Worksop Van Hire North Midland U19 League (North)
at Cannon Park, Leverton Road, Retford, DN22 6QF
Retford United (0) 0
Espial (0) 0
Admission £3 inc. programme
Last week's 'nine goal thriller' at Swallownest, saw the young Badgers claim a 5-4 win courtesy of Liam White, backed up by his attacking sidekick Cole Oliver and supplied with a regular flow of ammunition from Zach Casburn, in a closely fought game where you could've been forgiven for thinking that both defences had been given the night off.
Tonight, Retford took a share of the spoils from a performance that was built on no small amount of tenacious defending, a string of top class saves from their keeper Adam Hicks and a generous allocation of good fortune, as the visitors hit both posts and the crossbar in the first half.
To be fair, it wasn't all one way traffic towards United's goal, but as the away side headed back to Derbyshire at full time, they must've wondered how on earth they hadn't taken all three points, off the back of all the chances that they had created in the first half alone.
Winfield was in action again in the third minute, when Cole Oliver unselfishly laid the ball sideways ten yards from the visitors goal to Ewan McKay, whose first time strike was turned away by the 'Purples' keeper.
Having weathered some early pressure, Espial broke forward quickly from box to box, but Adam Hicks was alert to the danger posed by Sam Hibberd and was well placed to deal with the visitors first (of many) attacks.
The posts, both of them, came to Retford's rescue when Sammy Hawes delivered a cross to Barker who cracked it against the right hand upright and when Retford failed to clear the loose ball Alan Kent drilled it against the foot of the left one.
(J) Hawes was thwarted in full flight by a good blocking tackle from McKay, but moments later the Espial number eighteen was back and he crashed the ball against the Badgers crossbar from inside the D on the edge of the area.
Hibberd played Barker through with a good knock on the turn, but Hicks advanced from his line quickly and claimed the ball just inside his area.
Bennett once again tried to put White in on goal, but Kent arrived in the nick of time and donated another ball to the farmer who owns the field behind the main stand at Cannon Park, as he put his foot through it.
Espial were thwarted by an outstanding double save from Hicks, who blocked Hibberd's powerful strike from (J) Hawes through ball and then denied Barker with a one handed save at full stretch when he got to the rebound first.
Barker played the ball out wide to Connor Hicken who was making an overlapping run on the right flank, but Oliver had tracked the Espial's captain's run all the way and prevented him from crossing.
Hicks came to United's rescue again, when he saved from (S) Hawes close range header. The Espial player reminded me of the former Republic of Ireland player, Liam 'Chippy' Brady. they both had the same haircut and shirt number for starters.
Oliver got free of his marker out on the left and played a dipping ball towards White, who wrong-footed Wingfield by leaving it for Bennett who had timed his run to arrive behind his centre forward, but the Espial keeper recovered and saved.
Right on the stroke of half time, Cam Evans dribbled his way into the visitors goalmouth from the right hand side of the area, before placing the ball narrowly wide of the far post, with what was a let off for Espial, who almost went in to their half time break a goal behind, despite pretty much dominating the opening forty five minutes.
HT: Retford United 0 v Espial 0
Evans and McKay, both looked very comfortable on the ball on the right hand side, as they kept the visitors in check on their flank. And likewise, Ben Copestake, filled the role of a no nonsense left sided defender, who took most of the free kicks and throw ins for Espial down that side and was in direct competition with the aforementioned Badgers duo as a consequence.
The game started to get bogged down in midfield and Retford were restricting their visitors movement more after the break and keeping them pegged back in their own half far more often than during the first half.
Hibberd chased a long knock forward from inside the centre circle, the assistant referee's flag stayed down and Hicks had to launch the ball high into the night sky as he ventured from his area to execute a timely clearance with Hibberd bearing down on him at pace.
Alex Sanderson and Hibberd combined to try attacking the Retford area from the left flank, but the longer the game went on, the more that McKay grew in stature and he was pretty much dealing with anything that came his way in that area of the pitch now.
Evans went close to turning Oliver's cross towards the visitors goal, but Winfield dived in at his feet to take the ball off the Badgers' number twelve's toe.
White went shoulder to shoulder with Kent as they both chased the ball towards the Espial area, but the Retford striker still got his shot in, albeit one that ended up clearing the stand roof.
White had another half chance as Retford swept forward quickly via McKay and Evans, but Jak Moss stood firm in defence and put in a blocking tackle.
Conor Hicken launched a long free kick towards the home side's goalmouth, Kyle Martin cushioned the ball back towards Barker with a downwards header and the referee Wayne Davenport turned towards the Retford bench to indicate that a new ball was required because the one that Barker had just launched into the car park was long gone.
Copestake tried releasing Martin and Hibberd with long range balls for them to chase, but Hicks was on top of his game tonight and dealt with the apparent danger comfortably.
Right at the death, with Retford turning the screw, Espial countered and broke forward quickly, but when (J) Hawes picked out (S) Hawes with a right wing cross, he headed over.
I don't ever recall Liam Brady scoring with his head either, so there is another similarity.
Locally, a lot of people have a grumble to me, saying that they would attend more games in this league, but they never know when and where they're being played; so for their (and your) benefit, here is a magical click on link: